Panel Paper: Addressing Terror in Homeland Security Policy

Friday, November 8, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 3 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Russell Lundberg, Sam Houston State University

Risk analyses of homeland security threats often find that terrorism is a minor concern, while acts of terrorism continue to capture the attention of the public and policymakers alike. One reason for this disconnect is that overlooking the terror aspects of terrorism—its defining characteristic—distorts comparisons of risk, undervaluing terrorist risks as a key component of consequence is omitted. A true assessment of terrorism risks should take into account how people feel about it. Acknowledging that fear is important also has implications for choosing security to implement. Security efforts largely focus on reducing risk by reducing the likelihood that an attack will succeed but it is not clear whether this will reduce fear in a cost-efficient manner or even at all. Substituting a softer and less valuable target for a harder and more critical target may not result in a corresponding reduction in fear if an attack occurs. Indeed, in some cases, security measures may increase fear in the interest of reducing vulnerability. Anti-terrorism efforts may, in some cases, be better served by addressing fear directly.

This presentation will conceptualize the importance of fear in homeland security policy. As a first step, I will examine data on risk preferences using data derived from both a deliberative, analytical methodology and a fast, instinctual survey, to examine the importance of perceptual factors in risk and risk perception. Following this, I will consider the importance of fear in security, laying out a framework as to when and how focusing on reducing fear as compared to reducing likelihood may be useful. This will consideration of when and how policies may want to reduce the fear of terrorism directly rather than through reducing likelihood of an attack, as well as reducing the fear that security measures may themselves cause. Finally, I will identify some known unknowns, gaps we will need to fill to integrate addressing fear into security policy.